There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
Fast-forward to the year 2017 and there is still a propaganda tug-of-war going on in the court of public opinion of American society. The preferred medium nowadays—even though the protest marches of yesteryear have not totally disappeared—is public media, including radio, tv, newspapers, and magazines, but especially online social media. What has not changed is that many of the loudest voices on both sides (or on every side?) of the conversation are saying, in essence, little more than “hooray for our side.”
To a certain degree, this is understandable and predictable. It is a reflection of our human nature. We tend to take sides. And we tend to become cheerleaders for the side we take. But as Christians, I believe, it behooves us to ask ourselves to what degree “preaching to the choir” is an effective or Christ-honoring communication style.
Sure, it makes us feel good to pat ourselves on the back and point out all the ways our perspective on the political, social, and cultural issues of the day is the morally and intellectually superior perspective. It can be even more emotionally satisfying to get in a few choice jabs and digs at those who see things differently than we do. Sometimes that perfect zinger with just the right turn of a phrase can make us feel so good. Those who share our point of view will no doubt cheer us on and our posts will garner a good number of “likes.” But if all we are doing is “preaching to the choir,” I believe we may need to ask ourselves what we are really accomplishing.
If we, as Christians, are hoping to influence others toward the acceptance of truth, we need to learn how to engage them in meaningful dialogue. We need to learn how to truly listen to what others are saying and let them know by our responses that we have seriously taken into consideration their perspectives. Even though we may be diametrically opposed to the ideas they espouse, we need to make people sense that we respect them as individuals created in the image of God and that we truly are interested in both their temporal and eternal well-being. Otherwise, I fear, rather than winning people over to the right side of the issues we feel are important—and, even more important, winning them over to the love and lordship of Christ—we may well be driving a wedge that only serves to put up more barriers between us and them and further close their hearts and minds to the transforming power of the gospel.
With this in mind, here are a few questions to ask ourselves before posting or commenting on the issue du jour:
1. What do I realistically hope to accomplish by posting this?
2. Do I genuinely think what I am saying here (or the meme or article I am sharing) is going to help others to think through the issues and understand them better? Is it more likely to get them to listen to what I am saying or more likely to confirm their preconceived notions of what I am saying and as a result only close their minds even further than they were before?
3. What emotion am I feeling inside as I write this and as I push the send button? Is it a “gotcha” or a “take that” or a “that’ll show ‘em who’s right”? Or is it a “God, may you use this for your glory” or a “hopefully this will make a positive contribution to the conversation and help someone out there to better understand the reasons for what I believe”?
4. Am I prepared to humbly receive any corrections anyone may present to what I say and to do my best to listen with an open mind to any counterpoints to the arguments I am trying to make? Am I willing to entertain the thought that I may be wrong on this or that and to learn from others who may not be on my “team”?